Water Quality Modeler

Heal the Bay is an environmental nonprofit group dedicated to making our coastal waters and watersheds safe, healthy, and clean. Clean beaches and rivers are critical for public health and our economy in southern California. For over 33 years, Heal the Bay has been a powerful advocate for cleaning up polluted rivers and beaches and maintaining high standards that protect public health for recreational users of our local waters. Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card (“BRC”) and NowCast systems are well-known and scientifically robust tools for communicating water quality problems to decision-makers and the public, and our new River Report Card (“RRC”) will serve a similar purpose for the L.A. River and other freshwater recreation sites.

Position Summary:

The Beach Water Quality Data Scientist is responsible for day-to-day management of Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card, NowCast and River Report Card programs. The Beach Report Card (BRC) is seminal to Heal the Bay, providing beachgoers with a weekly A-F letter grade for nearly 450 California beaches. BRC grades are based on bacteria data provided by California health agencies. The NowCast system uses an automated system and a set of statistical models calibrated on years of environmental and bacteria data. It provides daily water quality predictions for 20 California beaches. The program is currently growing. BRC grades and NowCast predictions are hosted on Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card website and mobile app. More information about these programs can be found below. Heal the Bay’s River Report Card is another new and growing tool that provides water quality information on freshwater recreation areas using data obtained through Heal the Bay’s own monitoring program as well as through regional monitoring programs.

The Beach Water Quality Data Scientist obtains and analyzes bacteria data, updates the Beach Report Card grades weekly, and helps produce the Annual Beach Report Card and other reports. They manage all technical aspects of the NowCast system, including developing machine learning models for California beaches; running NowCast models each morning; evaluating NowCast model accuracy and strategizing with Heal the Bay management about how to maintain or improve accuracy as needed; and debugging any errors that occur in the system. Though backup support from other Heal the Bay staff is occasionally available, brief work to QA morning NowCast predictions on most weekends is expected. Additionally, this position will support any maintenance and expansion of the website and mobile app that broadcasts BRC grades and NowCast predictions as necessary. This position also provides information to help produce annual reports, summaries for beach managers, copy for media, FAQ updates, newsletters, etc. The Water Quality Modeler position will report to Heal the Bay’s Recreational Water Quality Scientist & Policy Analyst.

Functions Include:

Manage the day-to-day aspects of the Beach Report Card (BRC), NowCast, and River Report Card programs:

  • Collect data and manage databases necessary to calculate weekly BRC grades and calibrate and run NowCast models;
  • Calculate weekly BRC grades;
  • Collect data and manage databases necessary to calculate weekly River Repot Card (RRC) grades;
  • Calibrate and validate NowCast models (summer and winter swim seasons);
  • Daily NowCast model runs each morning using an automated system (occasional backup support will be available);
  • Fix errors that occur in any automated processes and update the automated system as necessary;
  • Identify problem beaches and investigate site specific water quality issues based on BRC and NowCast results;
  • Prepare data reports and analyses for seasonal reports, grant reports, and in other written materials;
  • Provide technical assistance needed for programmatic decisions, such as NowCast expansion, increased program automation, improving methodologies, etc. Manage Beach Report Card web and mobile app platform;
  • Publish regular BRC grades on the BRC platform and RRC grades on Heal the Bay’s River Report Card website;
  • Publish daily NowCast predictions on the BRC platform, and deliver results to stakeholders;
  • Monitor beach closures, sewage spills, rain advisories, and other alerts at beaches around California, and update alerts on the website and mobile app;
  • Monitor website and mobile app for correct display of data and bugs;
  • Aid in transitioning the BRC and NowCast programs to a new web-based data platform.

Experience and Skills Required:

  • Passion for the ocean and Heal the Bay’s mission;
  • Bachelor’s degree or above in Engineering, Computer Science, Math, or a related discipline is favorable; a similar degree in Marine Biology, Microbiology, or Environmental Science may be accepted if accompanied by strong computer programming skills;
  • Experience using standard data science techniques with Python, R, or similar languages, with machine learning/statistical modeling background in Python, R, Matlab or SPSS;
  • Database management skills desirable;
  • Knowledge of water quality issues favorable;
  • Strong research and analytical skills, with an interest to apply science to policy;
  • Excellent organizational and presentation skills;
  • Ability to work independently and cooperatively with colleagues;
  • Some evening and weekend work is required;
  • Regional and statewide travel may be required.

This is a part-time position. $25/ hour with appropriate state and federal taxes withheld. Paid sick leave is provided. There are no dental, medical, health insurance or vacation benefits included as part of employment. Hours: 25 hours (average) per week not to exceed 29 hours per week.

Please email/submit your cover letter and resume with subject line “Water Quality Modeler Application” to:

Ryan Searcy, Beach Water Quality Modeler

Heal the Bay 1444 9th Street Santa Monica, CA 90401

Email: rsearcy@healthebay.org

Review of applications will begin on December 3rd, 2018.

Heal the Bay is an equal opportunity employer and actively recruits to promote diversity in our workforce.

More information:

  • Heal the Bay Beach Report Card website: beachreportcard.org
  • 2017/2018 Annual Beach Report Card: healthebay.org/beach-report-card-2018/

Published papers on NowCast:

  1. Thoe, W.; Gold, M.; Griesbach, A.; Grimmer, M.; Taggart, M. L.; Boehm, A. B. Sunny with a Chance of Gastroenteritis: Predicting Swimmer Risk at California Beaches. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2015, 49 (1), 423–431.
  2. Thoe, W.; Gold, M.; Griesbach, A.; Grimmer, M.; Taggart, M. L.; Boehm, A. B. Predicting Water Quality at Santa Monica Beach: Evaluation of Five Different Models for Public Notification of Unsafe Swimming Conditions. Water Res 2014, 67, 105–117.
  3. Searcy, R.; Taggart, M. L.; Gold, M. A.; Boehm, A. B. Implementation of an Automated Beach Water Quality Nowcast System at Ten California Oceanic Beaches. J. Environ. Manage. 2018, 223, 633–643.